“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
There is only one time and place where you can be and have any control over.
The present moment.
But most of us still spend a lot of our regular days lost in memories, reliving a sunny vacation or maybe more commonly repeating an old conflict or negative situation over and over in our thoughts.
Or we get lost in scenarios about what could happen in the future. Maybe through wishful daydreams. Or maybe by building monsters in our minds as thoughts go round and and round and create scary and dangerous mountains out of molehills or just air.
Or your thoughts may become split and unfocused between several different things and tasks.
If you spend a lot of your everyday moments and time in the future or the past or you have difficulty focusing and you feel this may have a negative effect on your life then maybe you want to learn to live more in the present moment.
Here’s what works for me to do that. Just a few simple things that I use in my normal day.
1. Single-task not only your work.
I and many others have often written and talked about the importance of single-tasking your work to get it done more effectively.
I have found that it becomes easier for me to stay present for more time throughout my day if I single-task everything as best I can.
That means to not use tabs when I browse the internet but to just be fully engaged with one thing online at a time. It means to not use my smartphone or my computer as I also try to watch the TV. Or to use any of those internet-devices during a conversation.
Get a good start to your day and set the tone for it by doing one thing at a time as soon as you wake up.
If you have to multitask, then try to set off some specific time for it during your day. Maybe an hour or so in the afternoon.
2. Do it slowly.
When you wake up and starting doing your first thing of the day, then slow it down a bit.
Do it and the next few things at a relaxed and calm pace. It will probably not take that much longer than if you do it quickly. And you’ll be able to stay present more easily, to focus on each thing you do and to find a simple joy or stillness in it.
Do that instead of increasing your stress right away and getting stuck in worries or though loops about what may happen today before you even have had your breakfast.
And as you move through your day, try to do it slowly when you can.
3. Tell yourself: now I am…
As I do something I simply tell myself this in my mind: Now I am X.
For example, if I am brushing my teeth, then I tell myself: Now I am brushing my teeth.
This habit is maybe most important when doing things where it is easy to drift away to the future or past. It could be when you brush your hair or teeth or when you are taking a walk to the supermarket.
I don’t tell myself this line all the time, but I pepper it in a couple of times throughout my day.
4. Minimize what you let into your head early in the day.
If I check the email, Facebook and other websites online early in the day then I have found that I will have more thoughts bouncing around in my head. And so it becomes a lot harder to concentrate on anything, to stay present and to not be dragged away into some negative thought loop.
So the kind option towards myself has become to not check anything early in the day. And to check things as few times as I can.
If I minimize such things then my day becomes lighter and simpler and I not only stay present more easily but I also tend to get more things of importance done.
5. No, no, no + reconnect with the here and now.
The four tips above make it easier to stay in the present moment and to use it and enjoy it fully. But each day I still drift into the past or the future. Or my thoughts become split between different things.
If you have read any of my stuff on self-esteem then you know that I often use a stop-word or phrase to quickly disrupt and stop the inner critic or a self-esteem damaging train of thought. I do the same thing here.
As quickly as I notice that my thoughts have drifted away I say to myself: No, no, no.
Then I quickly follow that up with focusing on just my breathing or just on what is happening around me right now with all my senses for a minute or two to draw myself back into this present moment.